Every Friday morning, my wonderful place of employment, Readers’ Books, here in Sonoma, publishes a newsletter to all who are on its email list. The newsletter features a calendar of store events and a weekly essay penned by our smart, insightful and very humorous owner. In early August, I was allowed to contribute the following essay for the newsletter about a project that is very near and dear to my heart:
In America, many children have easy access to books in their schools and homes. As a bookseller here at Readers’ Books, I love seeing parents come in with their children. From early on, the lives of these children are being enriched by a world full of books.
This past March I had the trip of a lifetime to Morocco. Day after day, I took in the beautiful culture, geography, food and hospitality of this Muslim country. During my time there, I got to know Mohammed AitRhanimi, our local host and guide. Mohammed grew up in Rissani, a remote town in the Sahara Desert region, and is of Amazigh (Berber) descent. As a young boy, he and his classmates did not have books at their schools. Rather, the teachers used photocopies of book pages that were shared among the students. Unlike the majority of his classmates though, Mohammed went on to university, became fluent in 5 languages and now is a professional tour leader.
Mohammed spoke of his wish to give back and help the young students in his hometown. In those conversations with him, the Rissani, Morocco Library Project was born. I returned home to Sonoma, determined to do what I could to bring books to the students back there.
I have been in contact with the Headmaster and English language teacher at Princess Lalla Salma High School in Rissani. The school has an English Club for highly motivated students who are learning English. It is for these students and their dedicated teachers that I wish to establish an English language library there.
Here at Readers’ Books, there is a display of books that have been chosen for these students. I hope you will consider joining hands with me, and our fellow global citizens in Morocco, by buying and donating a book(s) for the English learners in Rissani, Morocco. All purchases come with a 10% discount.
Additionally, I have set up an online fundraising page for this project. If you would prefer to make a tax deductible donation instead, please visit https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/donate.aspx?eventid=199530
for this option. The online platform functions under the Morocco Library Project, a non profit organization founded in 2014 by Barb Mackraz of Palo Alto. If you are on Facebook, please type Morocco Library Project in the search bar and “like” its page.
I am happy to report that thus far, over 50 books have been purchased and donated by the bookstore’s customers. Additionally, the online donations have been coming in. Moreover, I am so excited to be joined on this project by a young student here at Sonoma Valley High School — Lena Mallet. As part of her required Senior Project, Lena must participate in some type of service project. I will mentor her through this and it is the plan that Lena will accompany me to Morocco in the Spring of 2017 to deliver the books. Lena plans to get her fellow high schoolers involved in the book donation process. I am thrilled to be part of a cross cultural endeavor between American high school students and their counterparts in Rissani, Morocco.
Since launching this fundraising initiative, I have contacted my friends and family through a personal email and also on my own Facebook page (as well as the Morocco Library Project Facebook page). If this is the first time you are reading about this project, I hope you will consider making an online donation (any amount is so helpful!) using the link above. Or if you live in Sonoma, perhaps you will consider purchasing and donating a book from the Morocco display in the store.
The following photos are of Princess Lalla Salma High School in Rissani, Morocco and the students in its English Club. I cannot wait, inshallah, to deliver the books next year to them!!